Marilou had invited me to accompany her to an education conference, as she works for the Commission of Higher Education as assistant to a director. When I climbed into the car with them, I thought I would just wander around the grounds and make myself very small. This would explain why I had put on my plain traveler’s clothes and flip-flops instead of the dress I had brought for such occasions. It’s not that it was a black-tie event, but it still was more formal than what I was dressed for.
Turns out I was actually seated with them at the head table. Don’t get me wrong, I have participated in official events a few times in the past, but I was always prepared for them. In that instance, I did not know what to do with myself in front of all these people – especially dressed as I was, say what you want, but wearing the right clothes can really bolster your confidence.
I also didn’t know where I was supposed to sit or when I was supposed to stand. I felt quite awkward.
Worst thing of all, the director proceeded to do me the honor of introducing me officially during her speech as “a friend from Canada”. I then had to stand up and felt the eyes of the whole room turn to me. I felt really inadequate in light of this unwarranted attention. People came to see me afterward, thinking that I was an official from Canada. I had to explain to them that the help I could provide them was quite limited (I could basically only help them find public contact informations for universities, not push their projects forward).
This could really have been avoided with a few words on what to expect at the beginning of the day. If ever you do happen to pass along an impromptu invitation to a traveler, or even just a friend, for a formal event, please do advise on the type of event and formalities to be expected. It will save both you and the guest quite a headache about decorum.
This being said, I am grateful for the opportunity to assist to the conference. It was really interesting to hear about how they are implementing outcome-based education and are aiming at improving the standardization of education so that exchanges with other countries and global recognition can become possible.